Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Cultural libertarians vs. SJWs. Outcome: draw!

"The distributist" does not hold out much hope for the cultural libertarians in general and YouTuber Sargon of Akkad in particular in the culture wars against the regressive left.  This is because, in his view, the cultural libertarians lack institutional support or a means of getting any, the cultural libertarians do not understand cultural narratives on narratives and arguments, and that cultural libertarians do not understand their own ideology, specifically liberalism.  Take the half hour needed to view this video.  

In my opinion, the distributist is partially correct.  But only partially.  There are also factors he failed to bring up that also work against the cultural libertarians.

The distributist made a good point in that the cultural libertarians seemed to lack an overarching narrative, and seem to lack an overall strategy above and beyond refuting regressive talking points and demonstrating the superiority of liberal ideas. This is very true.  It is very hard to prevail in an ideological war long term without a narrative.  This is why I earlier asked what should by the mythology of the alt-left?  And when I say mythology, I don't mean that we adopt a pre-existing mythological or religious system.  I mean that we need to consider the importance of framing our world view in terms of a struggle of opposed forces and casting ourselves as the protagonist for good in this struggle.  The side in any non-violent struggle for control of a civilization that more successfully does this will win in the long term.  It's really that simple.  The "radical progressives" referred to by the distributist are doing the best job of this right now.  But that was not always the case.

Conservatism's success from the 1979 to 2006 time frame was because they were able to frame the debate in moral terms and control the argument.  However relevant and accurate liberal talking points were in refuting specific conservative policy positions were, the conservatives cleaned the liberal's clocks come election time, and for a while, made "liberal" a dirty word.  If you don't believe me, go over to YouTube and listen to any of Ronald Reagan's speeches.  He was an absolute master of this.  Once Reagan departed the Oval Office, Newt Gingrich codified this technique and even went as far as to circulate a memo to GOPAC members on the importance of using language to frame the debate.

Some liberals, however, were paying attention to Gingrich's techniques.  And the lessons were not lost upon them.  Let's keep in mind also that the foundations of the SJW ideology lie in postmodern philosophy and academic critical theory.  They are thus quite adept at dissecting the written word and rooting out subtextual meanings contained therein.  Or imposing otherwise non existent contextual meanings into text.  A progressive (I forget which one) lamented back in the 1990s that "while they were taking over congress, we were taking over the English department."  Meant to be ironic, I'm sure.  The real irony lies in just how intertwined control over the two turns out to be.

This has been, I think, a key to the meteoric rise of the SJW in the last ten years.  Morally ratched up talking points that make it clear that disagreement makes one a terrible person, repeated over and over again, have a definite impact.  For a while, at least.

His final point about the only way to defeat anti-liberal forces long term is through "long, slow march through the institutions" is somewhat true.  But only somewhat.  But let's not forget that in the 1980s and 90s, the most prevalent talking points one heard in the mass media were free market and free trade mantras.  The media is much more the tail than it is the dog, and as much responds to as it does direct public opinion on crucial matters.  A small number of devotees of a solid and consistent narrative can have disproportionate influence.  It's not like the radical feminists always enjoyed such bias, after all.  

Media runs on advertising, and therefore needs to attract viewers in order to attract advertisers.  People are drawn like moths to a flame to controversy, and "political correctness gone mad" is a near perfect way to do this.  I quite strongly suspect that the loyalty of most mass media and social media to the SJW cause is less firm than people like the distributist would suspect.  Many CEOs of major media corporations are white males, after all.  Even a media CEO firmly devoted to social justice and insists that movies, TV programs, video games and so on reflect social justice themes will find themselves facing an irate board of directors if enough financial disasters like the recent Ghostbusters reboot start hurting the bottom line.  Besides, it's not like criticism of the excesses of campus radicalism do not also make headlines.

Speaking of campus, here is where a more crucial and determined struggle will play itself out.  The cultural libertarians, and anyone else interested in a long term defeat of regressivism would be well behooved to focus their efforts here almost exclusively.  If PC falls in academia, it's just a matter of time before it falls everywhere.  But academia is where its supporters are most entrenched and most driven by ideology rather than mere material concerns.  It will not be an easy struggle.

I think the distributist is wrong on some things, though. Namely that the SJWs emerge from, or are part of a fundamentally anti-liberal strain of thought. I think this is only partially true. Their appeal is, in significant part, due to an appeal to social inclusiveness. Due to an appeal to empathy with and care for the weakest and most vulnerable in society, or at least the appearance thereof. The SJWs claim the mantle of causes that are decidedly liberal - equal rights for women, minorities and so on, and much of their success is because of this.

This is where the real danger for Sargon, Milo Yiannopoulos and their ilk really lies.  If the cultural libertarians lose, it will be because of their own abandoning of liberal principles.  This is because most people don't really like actual racism and misogyny very much.  Most people don't like seeing things like Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones get hacked and doxxed.  Most people don't like the patently obvious meaning of comparing her to Harambe the gorilla.  Not far beneath the surface of many a cultural libertarian is something much more socially conservative.  Truth is, the libertarian high ground can more rightly be claimed by those claiming to be "genderqueer" or some other blue-haired silliness.  Until the SJW's swinging arm truly connects with the cultural libertarian's nose, the later will have a weak case.

I'm a fan and a sympathizer with Milo's "dangerous faggot" tour because I know how important it is to see campus political correctness be challenged.  But that challenge will fail if Milo and his ilk get lost in their own insular subculture of internet memes and racist shit posting and appeal more to one another's prejudices than they do to the general public's embrace of liberal values.  Keep the narrative to free speech and societal openness and the defeat forecast by the distributist won't materialize.

Western liberals a-la Sam Harris and Bill Maher were slow to recognize the authoritarian characteristics of PC for quite some time, especially in the days described in the video when they were united against the Christian right and with the LGBT crowd for gay marriage.  The English speaking world has next to no experience with left wing authoritarianism.  What surprises me is that the anti-regressive left has emerged as quickly as it has.

This will not end in a complete victory for either the SJWs or the cultural libertarians.  This is because liberal values are, I think, too deeply embedded in western culture to be uprooted in a single generation.  In all likelihood, the cultural libertarians will have to learn to live in a society that recognizes "gender fluidity", and may even come to realize that as silly as it is, it doesn't present an actual threat to their own freedoms.  The SJWs, on the other hand, will eventually have to face a world wherein they can't shut down anyone who they disagree with by a false appeal to oppression.  

The fundamentally liberal western world won't have it.

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